Philosophical question on marriage and divorce

I have been wondering what the church teaches about a specific moral dilemma that is facing someone I am close to. Perhaps someone can help.

A never married Catholic woman I know married a divorced Catholic in a non-church ceremony. They were married about 10 years and have a 7 year old daughter. The two are obviously living in sin and now the woman wants to separate. Is this the right thing in the eyes of the church, since otherwise it is an adulterous relationship? Would the church go so far as to recommend that they get a civil divorce. Would she be free to remarry then since it was never a sacramental wedding or would she need an annulment. Or would the church counsel that they stay together…

They’re not validly married.

First, without a proclamation of nullity, the husband is still married to the first wife.

Second, baptised catholics are required to marry in a Catholic church, or to have a dispensation to marry in another church. Without convalidation or a dispensation, they ar enot married validly.

I can’t say what the church’s opinion on her course forward would be. She should seek advice from her priest/confessor. My personal opinion with the VERY little information you have provided, is that she should attempt to work things out with this man, that they should seek a declaration of nullity of his previous marraige, and then seek to have the church convalidate their marraige so that it is valid.

As to if they separate, she would need to seek a declaration of nullity on this marraige before she could remarry.

Her husband’s original marriage was a sacramentally valid Catholic marriage…

Then she is not validly married to him, since no man can be married to two wives. Perhaps separation is best for them, then, if they cannot live as brother and sister together. She should likewise seek a declaration of nullity if this is the case in order to clarify that she is not married, in case she ever does want to be wed.

Complicated situation. As mentioned, they are not married in the eyes of the Church.

There are details not mentioned that a good priest might want to discuss with one or both of them. Is the only reason for this woman leaving the father of her child because they aren’t married in the eyes of the Church? Or does she want to leave him for other reasons?

If she only wants to leave because they aren’t married in the eyes of the Church, is there any reason to suspect his first marriage might qualify for an annullment? Or maybe the first wife has passed away, in which case the case the man is free to remarry. If he obtained an annulment for his first marriage or if his first wife has passed away, they can marry each other in the Church. But maybe she doesn’t want to do that for other reasons, or maybe his first marriage doesn’t qualify for an annulment.

I don’t know, but especially since there is a child involved, the situation is complicated. Sometimes its really hard to go back and make things right, but for the sake of the child it might be worth trying if the woman is willing to stay with the father of her child and if they are willing to live “as brother and sister” until the details are worked out. (That’s assuming that there is a possiblity that they can be worked out, which they might not be able to be.)

The first marriage for her husband was a Catholic marriage and there is no annulment possibiilities and the first wife is still alive. She also wants to leave him for reasons other than the fact that they aren’t married in the eyes of the church.

It seems to me that since it was not a valid marriage in the eyes of the church that getting a statement of nullity would be rather straight forward for her and that she would be free to marry again. But of course, there is still the hurt involved for her daughter…

More generically, though, the situation where someone marries a divorcee must unfortunately be rather common now. If they become aware that they are actually in an adulterous relationship, is the remedy to get a civil divorce and a church annulment? At least then, they are not in a relationship that leads to perpetual sin, and they can return to grace through confession. Its an interesting dilemma, because in this case divorce might actually be the moral solution. This seems counter-intuitive so I was curious as to whether anyone had experience in these matters.

Are you just assuming this, or do you know it for a fact? In other words, has he actually applied for a decree of nullity and been denied or are you just assuming that his marriage is valid?

BIG difference.

He should go talk to his priest. He may or may not have grounds for nullity. That is the important first step. Other decisions hinge on the outcome of a determination of the validity of his marriage.

Well, then, that’s a horse of a different color. She could in fact leave and divorce. She would be canonically free to marry because her current marriage has a lack of form. It is not valid.

However, there is more at stake here than just her. She has a daughter with the husband. She needs to think of her child. If she can remain with him, she should. They should pursue nullity of his first marriage and convalidation. IF his first marriage is found to be valid, they can remain together living chastely as brother and sister for the sake of their child. This is something the priest can advise them on.

If she plans to leave and divorce she will be harming her child.

The rememdy is convalidation of their marriage if the first marriage is invalid and can be proven so (or if the first marriage can be dissolved by Pauline or Petrine Privilege). If the first marriage is valid, and children are involved, they can live in continence and raise their children. If no children are involved, yes they should separate.

Unfortunately, yes, situations like you describe are not unusual. Also unfortunately, by their very nature they tend be very messy and affect many people. Meeting the best needs of everyone is difficult. Each situation should be examined on an individual basis. It’s good to talk these matters over with a good and wise priest. And to pray and pray and pray.

Remaining in the second marriage for the sake of the child while living as “brother and sister” is one option. I don’t know if that is* always* the “best” option in cases where there is no possibility of annulment and convalidation. What is “best” depends on many things, (but I will mention that the best thing is to avoid this whole messy second marriage outside of the Church thing in the first place.)

Are there children involved in the first marriage and/or is there a chance for the husband to reconcile with the first wife? Yes, the child from the second marriage needs a father and will be hurt if her parents divorce, but the existing child/children from the first marriage also need a father and they were hurt by their parents’ divorce too. And what of the first wife and her “hurts” and “needs”? Is she a faithful woman who lived chastely while awaiting her husband’s return after he left her and re-married another? Might the witness to the validity of the first marriage help offset the harm done by the second divorce? Maybe yes, maybe no, it depends on many things. :shrug:

It is something that we as Catholics need to remember before we judge our fellow Catholics who remain in invalid marriages. They* may* be living chastely within the guidelines of the Church for the sake of the children involved. They may be seeking the sacrament of penance for the times when they fail to live according to the Church teachings.* They may be daily living out their penance for past sin*s. If they are not, then we can pray that they do or that they find a better alternative for the various people involved. We can also remember that somewhere out there, they are people whose first spouses left them and their children, and they might be willing to take them back.

It gets so messy. Sadly, it is predominately the children who pay the price for their parents’ sins.:frowning:

Unfortnately there are no philosophical discussions when it comes to divorce and the pain it inflicts.

So assuming the man’s first marriage is valid, the woman is living with a separated man with whom she has children.

The Holy See did make a statement on this situation once. There is the possibility of taking a brother-sister vow of no sexual relations, and also they must sleep and behave in such a way as to not cause sexual temptations to each other, and they must confess their sins, and receive absolution. Then they may remain together to raise the children. If they receive communion it must not be a cause of scandal, so they might have to go to a church where they are not known.

Familiaris Consortio

“However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.”

“Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”(180)”
180 Pope John Paul II, AAS 72 (1980), 1082

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CDF Divorced and Remarried:

keeping this completely hypothetical, because in Christian charity we do not speculate about the case of someone we know . . .
she should meet with her priest who will suggest first separate and joint counselling and at the same time discuss what is involved in convalidating the marriage. however if the union is rocky it will not be convalidated. She would be counselled further on the part of this that is matter for confession, that they abstain from marital embrace until the convalidation. Should she later get a civil divorce she would need to petition and give evidence for lack of form before she is free to remarry. For the sake of the children they will first be counselled to heal the relationship, through all available means.

as part of the convalidation preparation of course the matter of any first marriage must first be addressed and resolve. Should the man not receive a decree of nullity, they will have to separate. These situations are very sensitive and for sake of the children need lots of personal counselling, before and after any civil divorce.

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